I have overseen many successful renovations, but I also know what it’s like to have a project turn into a total disaster. When my husband and I bought our apartment 20-plus years ago, it needed a gut renovation. I was pregnant, working full time and totally naive, and I hired a contractor without fully vetting him. (To be honest, at the time, I didn’t know what “vetting” meant, much less how to do it.) Almost a year into the job, our contractor went bankrupt and left before fully installing kitchen cabinets or finishing our bathroom.

Although that experience was painful, disheartening and unnecessarily expensive, I learned my lesson. I don’t want anyone to have a similar experience, so I called on two professionals for advice on determining whether you even need a contractor, how to find the right person for the job and more. Here is what they had to say.

What to know

  • How do I know whether I need a general contractor or whether I can oversee a project myself?
  • How do I find the right contractor for my home project?
  • How should I evaluate a contract and bid?
  • What is an allowance in a contractor bid?
  • What is a fair payment schedule?
  • Any other advice?